>Book Review: Monk Habits for Everyday People

Posted: 10/06/2009 in book review, monasticism

>At long last, I finally purchased and quickly read through Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality of Protestants A review of the book is overdue. I hope those of you MOSAIC types, as well the folk at Colorado, are reading this right now.

I can’t pretend to be objective in writing this review. Dennis Okholm (the author) was one of my professors at APU. I took a class on monasticism while this book was in the process of being published. That monasticism class was probably the most important theology class I took at APU. Learning how people could get together, withdraw from the so-called real world, and live out the Kingdom of God remain guiding principles in life to this day. Naturally, it is not something that is easily summed up and explained. After all, we went through at least three books for that class.

Monk Habits is a smaller and fruitful introduction to the Christian values of Benedictine monks. It begins with Doc Ok’s personal interest in monasticism. The “good evangelical boy” first began exploring and visiting Benedictine monasteries in the 80s. Because of his background as a Presbyterian minister, Doc Ok is able to explain the habits and customs of monks in ways that Protestants can understand and certainly learn from. This approach challenges many of our habits in Evangelicalism. Instead of finding the newest and latest work on Christian spirituality, Doc Ok points us to an old tradition. We need not re-invent the wheel for every generation.

Many object that monks withdraw to much from the world. It seems that monastic spirituality –even for those outside the cloisters- is irrelevant to the real world where the heavy lifting of evangelism is done. A careful reading of this book will help Christians see that this is not a problem. First, it reminds the reader that serious evangelism –one in which people truly change for the long term- often happens slowly. The habits and the virtues taught in this book help Christians grow closer to God. This likewise makes us better evangelists if we’re veteran Christians, and stick to the faith if we are new.

Secondly, this book gives a hint of what the “real world” is supposed to look like in the first place. The world culture we do evangelism in is the fake world. The way people treat each other and the habits that they do in that world are not what God originally intended. The monastic world, in which people actually forget how to have an argument, is the true world. The work of monks in cloisters inspires Christians outside of it to form alternative cultures to the prevailing one. It challenges us to live such good lives in our churches that those outside will be drawn to those communities.

So get the book now. Monasticism had a profound effect on my life. I’m sure it will for anyone else.


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